Friday, September 16, 2016

They have chemists at the Met?

I have been remiss in failing to note Linda Wang's great profile last week of Eric Brietung, an art conservation scientist (who started as a medic in the National Guard (!)) and then moved on to a Ph.D. in physical chemistry and ended up at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art: 
2006: Changing careers from coatings to conservation
After seven years at GE, Breitung wanted to move to New York City. When he saw an ad in C&EN for an art conservation scientist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), he applied: It was a perfect match for his interests in science and art. Breitung didn’t get the job, but he contacted department head Marco Leona to find out how he could work toward this type of job. “He was willing to offer me a fellowship for a year at a huge pay cut from industry.” Breitung took leave from GE. 
2009: Working his way through Washington
Breitung returned to GE for seven months before moving to Washington, D.C., to take a job as an art conservation scientist at the Smithsonian. In that position, he identified dyes on textiles from Central Asia. In 2010, he got a job as a senior scientist at the Library of Congress, where he examined materials in magnetic tape and other media. Along the way, he kept in touch with Leona, who became a friend and mentor. 
Today: Fulfilling his dream at the Met
In 2015, Leona contacted Breitung when he had an opening at the Met. “He thought I had the right qualifications for the job, and he invited me to apply,” Breitung says....
Do read the whole thing.

(Art conservation science seems to be one of those fields where the positions are relatively few and far between? It's probably these particular fields where patient networking is key.) 

6 comments:

  1. ***PEDANTRY ALERT***

    The Met and MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) are different museums.

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  2. Art conservation is a "hot" major. From what I gather, there are a lot of students that pursue it, and many are culled by the science requirements. I think you're right that internships and networking are important.

    I do know one student of mine did well in it, and went on to do an internship in a Spanish museum.

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  3. My undergraduate research project (20 years ago) was funded by the Getty Museum in LA on art conservation. They funded a number of chemistry faculty at local teaching colleges back then for various projects.

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  4. I have seen articles on these careers a few times over the years; always sounds intriguing.

    I was interested in art/art history more in my undergrad days but the chemistry in conservation usually focuses more on analytical than the organic+polymers+light-sensitive materials I would have enjoyed.

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  5. Definitely a niche field, but very cool. One professor in the Materials Science and Engineering department at my graduate school does research in the field, and my former PI collaborates with her to develop reversibly adhesive polymers for art conservation. One of her former students went on to work at the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian.

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